David Moyes defended his team selection after West Ham’s unbeaten European record was reduced to ruins in Athens.

The Hammers came a cropper in the shadow of the Acropolis as they crashed 2-1 at Olympiacos, their first loss in continental competition in 18 matches.

Moyes, who led his side to the Europa Conference League title last season, made seven changes for their Europa League Group A clash in the Greek capital with one eye on Sunday’s visit of Everton.

But his tinkering backfired as a soft goal from Olympiacos captain Kostas Fortounis and an own goal from stand-in Hammers skipper Angelo Ogbonna brought their undefeated run to a halt despite Lucas Paqueta’s late volley.

“Look, we changed a lot of players tonight, we’ve got the Premier League coming up and we’ve got a League Cup game next week and we’d won the first two games in the group, which gave us leeway to make changes tonight,” Moyes told whufc.com.

“But maybe I have to recognise that while we didn’t win the Conference League games easily, as they were all tough games, coming to Olympiacos after winning away in Freiburg – which was a good result – this wasn’t a good result and wasn’t a good performance.

“In our heads we certainly had a bigger picture in our heads and that was going into Sunday.

“I don’t think anybody could say the team we started with wasn’t a good team and wasn’t a team capable of winning or performing.

“Many of them have been very good players for us over the years and still are.”

The local ‘ultras’ welcomed West Ham on to the pitch with a huge banner reading “tonight you dine in hell”, and the Hammers’ first-half display was certainly hard to stomach.

The hosts took the lead in the 34th minute when Fortounis launched an old-fashioned toe poke from the edge of the box which flew past the flat-footed Alphonse Areola in the West Ham goal.

On the stroke of half-time the Hammers found themselves two behind when Ogbonna suffered his own personal Greek tragedy.

The Italian veteran stuck out a foot to block a cross from Brazilian full-back Rodinei, only to help it past Areola into his own net.

Moyes sent on Paqueta, Jarrod Bowen and Michail Antonio before the hour mark but the Brazilian’s strike, albeit spectacular, was all West Ham had to show for a late flurry.

Fortounis admitted his goal was a shade fortuitous. He told reporters: “To be honest, it all seems like a haze.

“I turned and ran towards goal, the ball was right in front of me and I couldn’t do anything else. It was literally a strike with the tip of my toe.”

West Ham’s unbeaten European record was reduced to ruins in Athens as they crashed to a 2-1 defeat at Olympiacos.

The Hammers came a cropper in the shadow of the Acropolis as they suffered a first loss in UEFA competitions in 18 matches.

David Moyes, who led his side to the Europa Conference League title last season, made seven changes for their Europa League Group A clash in the Greek capital.

But his selection backfired as a soft goal from Olympiacos captain Kostas Fortounis and an own goal from stand-in Hammers skipper Angelo Ogbonna brought their undefeated run to a halt despite Lucas Paqueta’s late reply.

A hostile reception for West Ham was guaranteed at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium, with Olympiacos even issuing a warning to their supporters not to throw missiles or target players with laser pens.

That plea came after their match against fierce rivals Panathinaikos on Sunday had to be abandoned when a visiting player was hit by a firework hurled from the crowd.

With tensions high in Athens – Panathinaikos were also playing at home a few miles away – around 1,600 West Ham fans were bussed in from the city centre to the ground under a police escort to avoid any potential trouble.

The local ‘ultras’ did not disappoint, with a huge banner reading “tonight you dine in hell” welcoming the visitors on to the pitch amid a cauldron of noise.

Moyes would certainly have found West Ham’s first-half display hard to stomach.

The hosts took the lead in the 34th minute when Fortounis turned away from Emerson Palmieri, James Ward-Prowse and Pablo Fornals far too easily, 25 yards out.

Fortounis launched an old-fashioned toe poke from the edge of the box which flew past the flat-footed Alphonse Areola in the West Ham goal.

On the stroke of half-time the Hammers found themselves two behind when Ogbonna suffered his own personal Greek tragedy.

The Italian veteran stuck out a foot to block a cross from Brazilian full-back Rodinei, only to help it past Areola into his own net.

Moyes will have been having a bad case of deja vu; his ill-fated spell in charge of Manchester United included a 2-0 defeat at the same stadium  in 2014.

West Ham did at least come out in the second half with more purpose, but a low cross from Emerson was scooped over the crossbar by Danny Ings.

Moyes made a triple substitution before the hour mark with Paqueta, Jarrod Bowen and Michail Antonio entering the fray.

Paqueta halved the deficit with a stunning volley from the edge of the box with four minutes left, but despite a late flurry they could not find an equaliser.

A victory would have all but secured West Ham’s passage into the knockout stages but now they find themselves with work to do, lying level with Freiburg at the top of the group with Olympiacos two points behind.

David Moyes has urged West Ham and Olympiacos supporters to behave themselves when the teams meet in Greece in the Europa League.

Tensions are high in Athens after Olympiacos’ league match with rivals Panathinaikos on Sunday had to be abandoned after an opposition player was hit by a firecracker.

Olympiacos have subsequently issued a warning to their supporters against throwing missiles and using laser pointers, which has become big problem in Greek football.

Meanwhile, West Ham fans were banned from their last European outing in Freiburg due to missile throwing during the Europa Conference League final victory over Fiorentina in June.

Hammers boss Moyes said at his pre-match press conference: “They’ve got great support here, fantastic enthusiasm, and it’s fantastic to come to a football city where the football really matters.

“You want the passion and the atmosphere but we also want good behaviour from our supporters and Olympiacos supporters.

“It’s a big game, but it’s important that everyone works together and end up having a good night.

“I think all we want is a good football game. You have to support your team well. You’re not doing your club any favours if you’re getting stadium bans or your team is getting thrown out of Europe.

“You have to be well behaved and we want the supporters to be that.”

Thursday’s match gives West Ham the chance to bounce back from Sunday’s painful 4-1 defeat at Aston Villa.

Greek defender Dinos Mavropanos said: “For the game against Aston Villa, it was a bad day against a good team.

“But our schedule is really busy so we needed to learn from it and start to focus on this game. We’ve been doing that. We’re here, we’ve worked hard and we’re looking forward to the match.”

Vladimir Coufal has not travelled due to a knock but fellow full-backs Ben Johnson and Aaron Cresswell are back in the squad after spells out.

Aston Villa boss Unai Emery played down his side’s Champions League credentials despite thrashing West Ham.

Villa are just two points off Premier League pacesetters Manchester City and Arsenal following Sunday’s 4-1 win.

Douglas Luiz’s double and clinical finishes from Ollie Watkins and Leon Bailey ended Villa’s Hammers hoodoo, for their first victory over West Ham since 2015.

They returned to fifth spot, just a point adrift of the top four, with games against Luton, Nottingham Forest and Fulham coming up next.

“There are seven teams contending. We are after seven teams; Man City, Man United, Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea and Newcastle,” said Emery, with fifth potentially offering a Champions League place this term.

“Dream, always. My dream is to win the Champions League but now we are fifth and we are going to face each match trying to get a good performance.

“It’s 38 matches and we lost at Newcastle, we lost at Liverpool. They are matches we are not going to play again.

“I prefer to speak about the matches we won but I have to speak about the matches we lost. This is the balance. We have to be very demanding.

“In the table West Ham were two points behind us and the level we have now, they have as well. It was very important.

“The process is going in the right way, it’s going to be difficult. In the end we won 4-1.”

Luiz had already tested Alphonse Areola from distance before opening the scoring after half an hour, firing in from the edge of the box after good work by Nicolo Zaniolo and Watkins.

Six minutes after the break Villa were gifted a second when Lucas Paqueta sold Edson Alvarez short and he brought down Ezri Konsa for Luiz to convert from the spot.

But Jarrod Bowen grabbed a lifeline for the Hammers soon after when his shot hit Pau Torres to creep into the corner.

The visitors sensed a recovery, Matty Cash heading over Nayef Aguerd’s shot, but with 16 minutes left Watkins ended any ideas of a comeback. He latched onto John McGinn’s long ball, skipped past Kurt Zouma and lashed into the roof of the net.

There was still time for Bailey to get in on the act in the final minute, beating Areola from six yards after giving Aguerd the slip.

It was just West Ham’s third league defeat of the season, leaving manager David Moyes frustrated.

“I’m not having my teams losing four goals as soft as we did today. There were things which I can say we did quite well but I didn’t think we were hard enough to play against,” said Moyes, whose side are now ninth.

“Today wasn’t so good. More importantly nearly every ball we played around the box was the wrong decision and it led to us hardly creating enough opportunity to score.

“The lads kept on fighting and it looked like we were the team in ascendancy at 2-1 but they punished us really quickly and that took the game beyond our reach.

“Villa are probably just behind the top three or four in the Premier League and today was a challenge to see what level we were at and I thought we fell below that.

“It was a very close first half, we missed opportunities to score. We had opportunities to make chances to score and that was the bit bugging me at half-time.”

Aston Villa maintained their Champions League charge with a thumping 4-1 win over West Ham.

Douglas Luiz’s brace, including a second-half penalty, plus goals from Ollie Watkins and Leon Bailey moved them to fifth in the Premier League – just two points off top spot.

Jarrod Bowen’s deflected effort made it 2-1 but the hosts recovered for Watkins to smash in a crucial third before Bailey wrapped things up late on.

The Hammers, now five points adrift of Villa, slipped to just a third defeat of the season after struggling to match the hosts.

Villa had waited long enough for a victory over the Hammers, their bogey side.

They had recorded just one win in the last 10 years, a 1-0 victory when Villa were already on the slide in 2015, but under Unai Emery they are a different beast, having earned 10 straight home league wins for the first time in 30 years coming into this match.

Emery put his faith in Nicolo Zaniolo, starting while he assists the Italian authorities in their investigation into alleged illegal betting activity.

A Sunday afternoon slumber hung over Villa Park in the opening stages but it was roused when Alphonse Areola brilliantly turned Luiz’s 25-yard effort wide.

It was a stunning save from the West Ham goalkeeper but he should have been beaten five minutes later.

Moussa Diaby’s pass evaded Kurt Zouma for Watkins to turn Vladimir Coufal. The hard work done, the striker had just Areola to beat but dragged inches wide from 12 yards.

The momentum was with Villa so there was little surprise when they went ahead after 30 minutes.

Zaniolo and Watkins linked on the left with the England striker collecting a cute return pass to tee up Luiz on the edge of the box and he drilled low past Areola.

In scoring, the midfielder became the first Villa player to net in six straight home matches in the Premier League.

The hosts deserved their lead, Watkins close to doubling it two minutes later when he grazed the side-netting, and West Ham were too compliant as Diaby, Watkins and Zaniolo caused problems.

Villa were slicker than the Hammers, who waned in the last third with a final ball missing and Michail Antonio haphazard.

Any hopes of a comeback rested on a strong start to the second half but, instead, the Hammers self-destructed after 51 minutes to gift Villa total control.

There was little danger when the Hammers looked to play their way out in the corner but Lucas Paqueta’s wretched pass put Edson Alvarez in trouble.

Ezri Konsa darted ahead and Alvarez clattered the defender to concede a penalty which Luiz coolly converted.

It looked like a Villa cruise but the visitors pulled a goal back out of the blue five minutes later when Bowen’s shot from 25 yards clipped Pau Torres and rolled in the corner.

The rarely-seen jitters returned to Villa Park and Matty Cash headed Nayef Aguerd’s strike over before turning Antonio’s dangerous cross behind.

Yet Villa ended any hopes of a recovery with 16 minutes left. The Hammers had the hosts on the ropes briefly but were caught out by John McGinn’s long ball to Watkins.

The striker, fresh from his winner for England against Australia during the international break, still had plenty to do but sold a dummy to Zouma before drilling into the roof of the net from an angle.

Substitute Bailey then wrapped up the points with a minute left, collecting Youri Tielemans’ pass, sidestepping Aguerd and finding the top corner.

David Moyes was frustrated by some of the decisions made by referee Peter Bankes in the 2-2 draw with Newcastle.

Mohammed Kudus climbed off the bench to score his first Premier League goal a minute from full-time as the Hammers snatched a point.

But Moyes was fuming with Bankes for awarding a free-kick for Lucas Paqueta’s challenge on Sandro Tonali which led to Alexander Isak’s first goal.

The Hammers boss also felt Bruno Guimaraes could have been shown a second yellow card, having been booked moments earlier, when he tripped James Ward-Prowse.

“It might have got away from us a wee bit but I wouldn’t blame them with the referee’s decisions,” said Moyes.

“That came from the free-kick that got the first goal back. I think on another day it wouldn’t have been given.

“I thought that was pretty harsh on us, as was the decision early on which could have been a second yellow card. I’m not going to say something to get me into trouble. I just think it was a really close call.”

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe defended his Brazilian midfielder.

He said: “It’s one of those where he’s made two challenges in quick succession which probably makes them look worse than they are. I think it would’ve been incredibly harsh.”

Tomas Soucek fired West Ham into the lead after eight minutes but Isak’s quickfire second-half double put Newcastle in control.

Isak also hit a post from a tight angle before Ghana winger Kudus lashed in an equaliser from 20 yards.

West Ham almost won it when Jarrod Bowen, on the day he signed a new long-term contract, fizzed the ball across goal and wide.

“I’m pleased with a point,” added Moyes. “We played well in the first half against a top team, one of the best teams in Europe the way they’ve been playing.

“It was tough, they played really well. We had difficult moments but we stuck at it. We could have gone 3-1 down but we could have won it 3-2. The game was very close,”

Howe admitted Isak’s late miss after rounding Hammers keeper Alphonse Areola proved costly.

“He’s played really well today, he’s gone round the keeper and done everything right, but the angle got too tight in the end. But when you’ve drawn that’s maybe a moment you’d like to replay again.

“It was a really tough first half, we weren’t ourselves and probably deserved to be 1-0 down. It was totally different in the second half, we deserved to lead so it’s disappointing not to get over the line.”

Mohammed Kudus climbed off the bench to score his first Premier League goal as West Ham snatched a 2-2 draw against Newcastle.

The Magpies looked set to follow up their memorable 4-1 Champions League win over Paris St Germain on Wednesday with a hard-earned three points on the road after Alexander Isak’s quickfire double cancelled out Tomas Soucek’s early opener.

But Ghana winger Kudus, the £38million summer signing from Ajax, struck a minute from full-time to earn the hosts a deserved point.

West Ham, who had their own continental exertions in the Europa League against Freiburg on Thursday, took the lead with the first attack of the match.

Lucas Paqueta was the architect with an exquisite chip which sent Emerson Palmieri racing through on goal.

The full-back knocked the ball past Nick Pope before unselfishly squaring it for Soucek to tuck into an empty net.

Bruno Guimaraes, who signed a new contract at Newcastle this week, was lucky to escape an early red card when, seconds after being booked for fouling Emerson, he blatantly tripped James Ward-Prowse.

Newcastle, as many teams do at West Ham, dominated possession – they had 72 per cent in the first half – yet all they had to show for it was a Miguel Almiron shot from 25 yards which flew wide and Dan Burn glancing a header the wrong side of the post.

David Moyes revealed after Paqueta’s star turn in the 2-1 win in Freiburg that the Brazilian playmaker at times has him “tearing his hair out”.

One such maddening moment came in first-half stoppage time when he tried one trick too many and was dispossessed inside the West Ham half, but Newcastle were unable to take advantage as the hosts eventually cleared their lines.

After the break Edson Alvarez, West Ham’s Mexican midfield enforcer, was inches from his first goal for the club when he headed Ward-Prowse’s corner wide.

Newcastle finally tested Hammers keeper Alphonse Areola, who made an incredible save to keep out Burn’s header from Isak’s cross.

But moments later the visitors drew level, Isak reacting quickest after Alvarez inadvertently headed Kieran Trippier’s free-kick back across goal and firing home.

And within five minutes Newcastle were leading when Trippier’s superb cushioned volley-cross was tucked away from close range by Isak.

The Sweden striker went agonisingly close to claiming a hat-trick when he rounded Areola but, from a tight angle, could only hit the post.

It proved costly when Kudus collected Vladimir Coufal’s pass 20 yards out and lashed the equaliser past Pope.

The Hammers almost won it in stoppage time but Said Benrahma was just unable to convert Jarrod Bowen’s drive across goal.

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe has encouraged home-grown midfielder Sean Longstaff to set his sights on an England call-up after shining on the European stage.

The 25-year-old’s career, which looked to have stalled under Steve Bruce, has been resurrected since Howe took over in November 2021 and he played a key role in Wednesday night’s 4-1 Champions League victory over Paris St Germain with a tireless display capped with the third goal.

Longstaff has been a key figure in the side which has gone six games undefeated and conceded just a single goal ahead of Sunday’s Premier League trip to West Ham, and while the Magpies’ head coach studiously avoids trying to pick Gareth Southgate’s squad for him, he insists the Academy graduate has what it takes to play international football.

 

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Howe said: “I haven’t spoken with Sean in any great detail about the England squad or his dreams and aims, but I’d encourage it for him because I think he is good enough.

“I think he’s got everything depending on what system you want to play but for us, he perfectly fits the number eight role that we’re using him in.

“I’d love to see him score more goals and get in more goalscoring positions because I think he is a very good finisher – you saw the other night with a really good goal – so hopefully there’s more to come from him.

“But he’s certainly done very well at the start of this season.”

North Shields-born Longstaff’s re-emergence has ensured a Geordie presence in Howe’s increasingly-cosmopolitan starting XI and he is not alone with Blyth native Dan Burn having made the left-back spot his own since his £13million arrival from Brighton in January last year.

At 6ft 6in, the 31-year-old – who also scored against PSG – does not fit the usual profile for a full-back, but having played the role earlier in his career, has adapted admirably to what he has been asked to do.

Howe said: “He’s been magnificent. He’s unusual. There are not many Dan Burn-type players playing football.

“He’s done so well to adapt to the position, but it’s a position he’s played before, so it’s not new to him. It’s just new to him for us, but technically he’s been very good.

“Defensively, he’s got a brilliant mindset to defending. He enjoys defending, he wants to defend.

“You can see in the last two games, the amount of good decisions he’s made against very good opponents, whether that’s a fast tricky winger or someone who is good positionally.

“He finds a way to react really well in-game to make adjustments to deal with his opponent.”

The sight of a bloodied and bandaged Alexander Isak scrapping with Paris St Germain’s defence signalled a new step in his blossoming career for Newcastle boss Eddie Howe.

Isak rekindled memories of Magpies warhorse Alan Shearer during Wednesday night’s 4-1 Champions League demolition of the French champions when – after he had been left bleeding in a clash of heads with full-back Lucas Hernandez – he picked himself up and redoubled his efforts to spearhead the attack once again.

Head coach Howe was delighted with the 24-year-old Sweden international’s response to his midweek misfortune.

He said: “Especially in recent weeks, I’ve seen a real desire off the ball from Alex to press, to work, to set the standards, really, from the front in terms of how we play off the ball and I think he’s been terrific.

“It was not nice to see him cut and bandaged, I’d never say that, but it was nice to see a response to it. He responded and worked even harder, so full credit to him.”

Isak scored twice in his first three games for Newcastle, including a fine strike on his debut at Liverpool, but was then sidelined for almost four months with a thigh injury he sustained on international duty, although Howe admits even that enforced lay-off proved fruitful.

He said: “It was a big change for him when he came to England because just the style of play and our style of play is different, so I think there was a period of adjustment for him.

“But I think probably what helped him, actually, was his early injury gave him a chance to sit back and watch the team and to understand the expectations and how we do things. Sometimes you can see that even clearer from watching.”

Former Real Sociedad frontman Isak, who is again likely to lead the line at West Ham on Sunday with Callum Wilson – like midfielder Joelinton – battling a hamstring injury, is the newly-enriched club’s record signing with his fee eventually set to reach £63million.

But his efforts this week have been celebrated no more than those of defender Fabian Schar, whose £3m price tag when he joined the club from Deportivo la Coruna in July 2018, is starting to look like a spectacular bargain.

Schar’s form under Howe has been superb and the 31-year-old capped a fine defensive display against PSG superstar Kylian Mbappe and company with a stunning injury-time strike from distance.

 

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Howe said: “It’s not about price because that’s only what someone pays and what someone agrees to receive for the player. He’s just been excellent, he really has.

“It’s not a conventional centre-half’s finish that, it’s a centre-forward’s finish, really. But he has the capability to produce moments that take your breath away. Technically he is so good.

“If he was starting his career now, he’d be worth an absolute fortune. He’s a top player and I’m really pleased that he’s getting the consistency and the accolades for his performances.”

Eddie Howe wakes every morning happy with the “life-changing” decision he took to become Newcastle’s head coach.

The 45-year-old accepted the Magpies’ offer of employment in November 2021, just weeks after Amanda Staveley’s Saudi-backed consortium had completed its takeover.

Staveley and her partners will celebrate two years at the helm on Saturday with the club having been transformed to the extent that they sent shock waves across Europe on Wednesday evening with a 4-1 Champions League rout of Qatari-funded Paris St Germain.

Asked where he would rank his decision to take on the job, Howe said: “I knew when I took the job – the moment came when I was offered the job and I was going to say yes – that it was a life-changing moment for me.

“Thankfully it has been a great journey so far. I have loved every second of it.

“I said when I arrived I was very proud to be Newcastle manager and I’ve never woken up without that feeling. The feeling that I am doing something very special in my life is always there and it’s never something I take for granted.”

Howe’s decision thrust him into the centre of a geopolitical minefield and he has found himself repeatedly facing questions over the Saudi regime and its links to the club through the Gulf state’s Public Investment Fund, which holds an 80 per cent stake, and accusations of ‘sportswashing’.

PIF governor and Magpies chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan has made no secret of his ambition, saying in the Prime Video documentary ‘We Are Newcastle United’ that he ultimately wanted to establish the club as number one in the world.

Howe, who met the chairman briefly after the PSG game, has been consistent in taking a measured approach to development despite hefty, if astute, investment in the squad since the takeover.

But asked if there was any reason why the Magpies could not be the biggest club in the world, he said: “No, but we’re not the world’s number one club at the moment.

“We’ve got to try to work towards that, and these things take time. There is no magic wand. Being smart, making good decisions and working hard every day…

“If that is the ultimate aim, then we will try our best to try and get that.

“We have to be calm and recognise we are in the early stages of the season. We’ve got a lot to prove before we can say anything about what we’ve done. We’ve just put ourselves in a good position in our Champions League group and we are still formulating our Premier League position.”

That process will continue with Sunday’s visit to West Ham, a game for which Anthony Gordon is suspended after reaching five bookings for the campaign, while Callum Wilson and Joelinton remain doubts and Sven Botman is out.

David Moyes saluted his “maverick” forward Lucas Paqueta after the 2-1 Europa League win at Freiburg, even though he drives him mad.

Freiburg’s nickname is the Breisgau Brazilians due to their flamboyant style of play, but it was West Ham’s Samba star Paqueta who stole the show.

He put them ahead after only nine minutes with a towering header from a cross by Jarrod Bowen, celebrating his return to the England squad.

Paqueta then spent the rest of the evening tormenting the hosts with his array of flicks, tricks and occasional theatrics.

“It was a bit of an old-fashioned goal, down the side with a good cross, and then a great header like an old-fashioned centre forward. I really enjoyed watching it,” said Hammers boss Moyes.

“Jarrod played well but Lucas was terrific. He drives me mad sometimes but everybody who watched him would have said this player has got incredible talent.

“There is a word that goes around, a maverick. He is that for us.

“It is really important we get him in and adapt to him and accept some of his things he may not do, things which I would say are conventional.

“But we are really enjoying him at the moment and he is terrific at taking the ball under pressure – but also there are moments when I say: ‘what are you doing’?”

The match may have taken place on the edge of the Black Forest, but it was never going to be a piece of cake for the Hammers against a side eighth in the Bundesliga.

They were also up against 34,000 noisy fans, with no away supporters allowed to attend following incidents during West Ham’s Europa Conference League final triumph in June.

Freiburg equalised after half-time through Roland Sallai, but Nayef Aguerd’s header from a James Ward-Prowse corner made it two wins from two in Group A and a 17th match undefeated in Europe, a record for an English club.

“It’s a brilliant achievement, I’ve said to the boys we need to keep it going. Winning the game tonight was most important,” added Moyes.

“I’m really pleased. We played very well especially, in the opening 20 or 30 minutes.

“They came back, which I expected. They got better and we had moments when we played very well but we mainly won the first half. We had to then be good defensively.”

West Ham continued their continental cruise as headers from Lucas Paqueta and Nayef Aguerd secured a 2-1 win at Freiburg and a record 17th match unbeaten in Europe.

The Hammers took control of Europa League Group A with a battling display in southern Germany.

The match may have taken place on the edge of the Black Forest, but it was never going to be a piece of cake against a side eighth in the Bundesliga.

They were also up against 34,000 noisy fans, with no away supporters allowed to attend following incidents during West Ham’s Europa Conference League final triumph in June.

That march to Prague contributed to West Ham’s now record unbeaten streak, putting them one ahead of Bill Nicholson’s Tottenham, Don Revie’s Leeds and Pep Guardiola’s current Manchester City.

Freiburg’s nickname is the Breisgau Brazilians due to their flamboyant style of play, but it was West Ham’s Samba star Paqueta who put them ahead after only nine minutes.

Vladimir Coufal collected the ball from Mohammed Kudus and sent Jarrod Bowen scampering down the right.

Bowen, buzzing after his recall to the England squad, drew his marker out before sending in a cross which Paqueta met with a towering header above two defenders at the far post.

Moments later a shot from Kudus was spilled by goalkeeper Noah Atubolu, who was mightily relieved to see the ball cannon back off the foot of his post.

Then Paqueta had the ball in the net after a surging run into the box from Pablo Fornals, but the goal was ruled out for offside.

Freiburg’s cow field of a pitch was making it difficult for both sides to knock the ball around with any confidence.

But West Ham had initially adapted better and could have doubled their lead when James Ward-Prowse got through on the stroke of half-time, but his shot was too close to Atubolu.

The Hammers should have been further ahead but sat back on their lead, so there was an all-too familiar feeling when Freiburg equalised after the restart.

Goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski was unfortunate, keeping out Roland Sallai’s shot and the follow-up from Lukas Kubler but Sallai smashed the ball home at the third attempt.

West Ham then had an almighty let-off when Kiliann Sildillia’s header bounced off the woodwork and Lucas Holer blazed the rebound over from six yards out.

Instead the visitors wrapped up the victory after 66 minutes, Aguerd rising highest to head home Ward-Prowse’s corner.

Bowen should have marked his return to the national squad with a sixth goal of the season – only to fire wide when clean through – but West Ham had done enough to sit top of the group with six points from their opening two matches.

Kurt Zouma is determined to repay the faith shown in him by West Ham manager David Moyes.

The 28-year-old defender has been confirmed as West Ham’s club captain in the wake of Declan Rice’s summer switch to Arsenal.

Moyes forked out £30million to sign Zouma from Chelsea in 2021 and stood by the Frenchman after a video emerged showing him kicking and slapping his pet cat.

Zouma was fined two weeks’ wages and sentenced to 180 hours of community service after that unsavoury incident.

Last season, Zouma was one of West Ham’s stand-out performers during their triumphant run in the Europa Conference League.

And his redemption continued by being handed the armband and playing a big part in West Ham’s fine start to the current campaign.

“It’s a huge honour and privilege for me to be captain. It’s an amazing club and I’m just so proud,” Zouma told the PA news agency.

“The manager has done an amazing job. He’s a legend here. We won a trophy last year and that was a top achievement.

“And for me personally he has been helping me in every aspect, with my game and outside of football he has been supporting me throughout everything, and I just can’t thank him enough for what he’s done for me and I try to give it back on the pitch.

“That’s my way, on the pitch. Everything he has helped me through I have to give it back on the pitch.”

West Ham have re-invested the £105million received for Rice in James Ward-Prowse, Edson Alvarez, Mohammed Kudus and Konstantinos Mavropanos, all of whom look like shrewd signings by Moyes.

“We lost a top player, an important player, in Declan,” added Zouma. “But I think the replacements that we made have been very clever.

“That didn’t affect us, to be fair, we knew he was going to go. He’s played some unbelievable games here, he’ll always be remembered here, but he’s an opponent now.

“The players that came in have bought into the project at West Ham, they’ve bought into the tactics, they’ve settled quickly as well.

“So we are pleased to have those guys and they’ve helped us make a really strong start to the season.”

David Moyes believes Jarrod Bowen should be back in the England squad this week after his fifth goal of the season helped sink Sheffield United 2-0.

Gareth Southgate names his next squad on Thursday ahead of a friendly against Australia and the Euro 2024 qualifier with Italy.

Bowen, who earned four caps last year, was overlooked for the September internationals but Moyes feels his current form makes him hard to ignore.

“I would say Jarrod is as close now as he has ever been,” said Moyes.

“He’s in really good form, quick, sharp and looks like he can do a lot of things.

“I’m not going to pick the England team, but to play for England you have to be able to score in big games. Jarrod’s doing great for us.”

Bowen grabbed his goal after 24 minutes, timing his run into the box to perfection and burying Vladimir Coufal’s low cross.

Tomas Soucek added the second after he was slipped in by Michail Antonio as West Ham all but sewed up a comfortable victory before half-time.

“I liked what I saw in the first half. The first goal was brilliantly worked. There were lots of good things, but not so much in the second half,” added Moyes.

“I wanted us to score more goals but a lot of credit has to go to Sheffield United and their manager after a tough week and a big defeat. But ultimately we got the goals and the win.

“It’s three points in the Premier League and when you look at some of the results today, it shows you can’t just turn up and get three points.”

The Blades did at least improve on their 8-0 defeat at home by Newcastle six days earlier, not that they could have been any worse.

Their boss, Paul Heckingbottom, maintains they can still pick up enough points to stay up.

“We’ll see. I believe it,” he said. “If you look at our games we’ve not lost because other teams are far better, we’ve lost because of key moments. There’s evidence there that we can get the points.

“Results like last week happen. There’s been some surprising ones today. What I didn’t like was the nature of some of the things I saw, I was adamant it was a one-off and I don’t want to see again.

“No one’s going to feel sorry for us. We have to fight for those points.”

Jarrod Bowen and Tomas Soucek were on target as West Ham strolled to a 2-0 victory over rock-bottom Sheffield United.

The Blades, walloped 8-0 by Newcastle six days earlier, had the air of a team already resigned to relegation just seven matches into the season.

Their visit to the London Stadium was a welcome one for West Ham, who had suffered back-to-back defeats by Manchester City and Liverpool.

The only surprise was that the Hammers did not score more, although it could have been an entirely different story had the Blades opened the scoring after 10 minutes when Cameron Archer turned Kurt Zouma in the area, only for Nayef Aguerd to slide in and block his shot.

That was pretty much their only glimpse of Alphonse Areola’s goal in the first half as West Ham went for the jugular.

First Bowen out-muscled James McAtee on the byline and cut the ball back for Soucek, who blazed over the crossbar.

Then, from a James Ward-Prowse corner, Bowen had a header saved at point-blank range by Wes Foderingham, with Aguerd’s follow-up headed off the line by Luke Thomas.

The goal West Ham had been threatening arrived in the 24th minute when Vladimir Coufal crossed low into the penalty area.

Bowen had timed his run into the box to perfection and arrowed a first-time finish past Foderingham for his sixth goal in the Premier League this season, and his first at home.

West Ham, sensing they could fill their boots just like Newcastle did against the Blades a week earlier, poured forward with Michail Antonio curling a shot just wide and Soucek narrowly off target with a glancing header.

Nine minutes before the interval they doubled their lead after the visitors lost possession as they tried to play out from the back.

Emerson Palmieri’s pass along the edge of the box found Antonio, who unselfishly slipped in Soucek to slot the ball home.

After the break Archer had a half chance in the area but his shot was deflected over the crossbar.

And a miserable afternoon for the Blades got even worse when captain John Egan limped off.

They should have been further behind when Bowen rounded Foderingham and pulled the ball back, but Antonio could not find the finish.

Aguerd headed wide from another Ward-Prowse corner before Blades striker Oliver McBurnie could have set up a nervous finish for the hosts, only to see his header fly the wrong side of the near post.

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